DES MOINES, Iowa - An organics watchdog group's criticism of a cereal company that describes its products as "all natural" is the latest in the debate about whether the term is being used to confuse consumers or simply give them more information.
The Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute recently filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Hearthside Food Solutions, makers of Peace Cereal. It claims the Eugene, Ore.-based company promotes its cereals as being made with pesticide-free ingredients when they're not.
Cornucopia and others argue it's an example of the way some food manufacturers try to attract customers who may think buying natural means they're buying organic. The organization was especially critical of Hearthside because the company previously sold organic cereal before switching to conventional ingredients.
"The sleight-of-hand of Peace Cereal, switching from organic to conventional ingredients, in a stealth-like manner, needs to be exposed." said Mark Kastel, co-founder of Cornucopia.
Telephone and e-mail messages left for Hearthside Food Solutions over several days were not returned.
The debate between natural and organic has risen in recent years with the increased popularity of organic products. To be certified organic and eligible for an organic seal, food must meet strict government guidelines overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some claim that labeling products all natural or 100 percent natural can confuse consumers who think of the terms as synonymous.
"Natural doesn't have any regulatory meaning while organic does," said Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University... More